Q: How long have you been collecting by mail?
A: I’ve been collecting through the mail since 1988, when my 7-year-old son Dylan suggested while watching the All-Star game that we send some of our duplicate cards to players to try to get them autographed. The first player we ever got back was Steve “Psycho” Lyons.
Q: While you don’t ask questions with every autograph request, you’ve occasionally struck gold by asking. Tell about Gene Baker and players with Civil War-era relatives.
A: I really thought Gene Baker’s answer (he hadn’t appeared at a card show because no one had asked) was sad. He was an integral part of black baseball history; along with Ernie Banks being one of the first two blacks to play for the Cubs. Yet he was so overshadowed by Banks that he was forgotten by local card show promoters who’d bring Cubs in from Chicago, rather than give Baker, a Quad Cities native, the chance to share his history.
Adam Rankin Johnson confirmed his relationship to CSA General “Stovepipe” Johnson, and Jim Lytle confirmed that he was distantly related to the Union General William Haines Lytle, an accomplished poet as well as a warrior, who died during the Battle of Chickamauga.
Q: Sometimes you’ve taken pictures of players, later offering them a copy by mail while asking them to sign a duplicate for you. Or, you’re created a double-sided laminated 8-by-10 featuring articles about that player. Have you gotten special replies from the extra effort you’ve shown?
A: I had some interesting correspondence with agent Scott Boras, when I sent him his 1977 St. Petersburg card to get signed. He didn’t realize that he was on a baseball card. I ended up with a signed business card and letter as well from him. I was able to find another card from that set of him and was able to provide him with a card as well.
When Alex Rodriguez played his first professional ballgame, it was in the Quad Cities. One of the Quad City papers ran a picture of him jumping up to avoid someone sliding into second base. With both arms outstretched and being up in the air, it looked like he was flying. I laminated the photo and asked him to sign it when he came to Burlington. He was so impressed with it, he asked if he could take it into the dugout and show his teammates. When he came out, he signed the picture, a cover of Baseball America and three cards for me. Beautiful signatures.
Often, I’ll have players ask if they can have the newspaper photo that I’ve laminated and mounted on construction paper. I’ll grit my teeth sometimes in disappointment, but I always give it to them if they ask.
Tomorrow, learn more about Hanson’s minor league successes. Best of all, he shares some of his top hobby tips from “The Family Section.”